“There are now over 650 universities and 33,000 colleges in India. The density of educational institutions has increased from 10 to 14 institutions per thousand square kilometre during the 11th Plan period,” Mukherjee said in the presence of dignitaries including Maharashtra Governor K Shankaranarayan, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, actor Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Anil Ambani.
Despite India’s higher education system being second largest in the world, the enrolment rate among the 18-24 age group in India is only 7 per cent, he said. “Compared to this, it is 21 per cent in Germany and 34 per cent in the US,” the President said, adding that “compounding the woe of low coverage was lack of standards in many of our higher educational institutions which were way below global benchmarks,” he said. Stressing that the country must reclaim its “lost glory” as the world’s favoured destination for higher learning, the President said, “I do believe that the time has come, if we do want to achieve our rightful place in the comity of nations, if we want to be the first class power in the world, we must have first-class facilities, first-class academic institutions, first-class colleges.” “We have to recover the ground we lost almost seven centuries ago. India dominated the scene of higher education for not one or two years but for 1500 years,” the President said. “From third century BC to 12th century AD, from days of Taxila, now in Western Punjab, for 1500 years, India, like a magnet, attracted the mighty minds in the form of students, in the form of teachers, from China, Persia and far off places,” he said. “I really feel sad when I find that in international rating agencies, when they are upgrading and classifying institutions worldwide, in 200 top international institutions, I do not find the name of a single Indian university,” he said. “I feel sad when I find every year when the list of Nobel laureates comes, that it was 87 years ago that India last got a Nobel prize, in C V Raman,” he said. (PTI)